Enduring Japan During the Crisis

Japanese Baby - Japanese Rule of 7

Yep, nothing like a pandemic to test one’s commitment to a cause. And until a couple months ago, I was largely settled on the idea of living in Japan forever. I appreciate all aspects of this country, from the mountains to the oceans, and all the convenience stores in between. Japan’s a wondrous neon land of late-night karaoke, bullet trains, and spotless neighborhoods, maintained by an upstanding citizenry steadfastly dumping broken stereos and microwaves into the forest. Gotta admire the conscientiousness. I like everything about Japan except the people.

And of course, there were the ladies. Chatting up random birds in bars, restaurants, the Unemployment Bureau. “Come here often for government assistance? Me too. We’ve so much in common. Let’s hang out.” They say working on a hobby keeps your brain healthy, and you know Ken Seeroi ain’t trying to get no Alzheimer’s.

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Coronavirus, Japan 2020

Japanese Sashimi - Japanese Rule of 7

And then suddenly there was no toilet paper. I first knew things were heating up when the girls at Starbucks all started wearing face masks. It’s not uncommon for people to wear them on the street or in the train, but to see service staff looking like hospital orderlies was a bit disturbing. Of course, I had on a mask too, so our interaction went something like,

“Wrrcome tr Srbucks, mray I trk yr rrrder?”


“Mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Grrrnde crrffee prrease.”



I also discovered it’s pretty hard to drink coffee while wearing a mask and without touching the cup. So I bought a bag of beans and resolved to start brewing up at home.

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Life and Death in Japan

I woke up, and a beautiful geisha was serving me tea. Ah, every day should be like this.

“Here is tea,” she said in a dream-like Japanese voice.

“Here is Ken Seeroi,” I replied, “nice to meet you.”

“You’ll like it. Just try a little.”

“Think I’ll just go back to sleep now, thanks.”

“How about a few sips?” she continued, gazing at me with big, doe-like eyes.”

For a geisha, she sure was annoying. I briefly pondered the correlation between attractiveness and irritation before everything went dark and I passed out cold. Continue reading “Life and Death in Japan”

Going to a Japanese Hospital

Death is coming for us all.

Not to worry though, because I plan to upload myself to iCloud in anticipation of my eventual robot body. Then we’ll see who has abs of steel. Heh, you can keep your reverse crunches.

In the meantime, since I still need to maintain the meat body, I went to a Japanese hospital. I blame the children, naturally. At lunchtime, they formed a 3-foot high flashmob, pleading “Ken! Ken! Pick me up!” I’m very popular among the under-nine crowd.

“Uhhh . . . it’s Seeroi Sensei, remember?” I said. But all right, they’re only kids, so I gave them a pass. Not like that crusty old Yoshida Sensei, always calling me by my first name and commenting every time I write something in Japanese.

“Wow, you can write the word for ‘today’! Sugo~i, Ken.

“Thanks,” I said. “Normally I just write ‘tomorrow’ the day before, and wait.

Jyouzu,” she replied, “Keep going. You’re almost like a Japanese.

“Ah, my life’s ambition.”

And so I kept going, out to the brown swath of dirt that passes for a school playground in this country, where I picked up a succession of kids, each heavier than the last, until I got to Fat Joe. I don’t know why people say the Japanese are skinny, when I’ve got such a bunch of porkers in my class. Whatever. I didn’t want to make the little guy feel bad, on account of his morbid obesity, so I put my hands under his arms and gave him a solid heave ho.

“Jeez, what’ve you been eating?” I groaned.

“I like donuts,” he replied.

“It was a rhetorical question, kid.

“Oh,” he said.

After that, something just didn’t feel right, so I went back inside and took a trip to the restroom. Sure enough, there was a bulge in the groinal region, and not the good kind either. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I think I know a hernia when I see one. Fat Joe had done me in. People talk a lot about child abuse, yet you rarely hear about adult abuse, which is strange.

The Japanese Medical Exam

Since I had nothing better to do than sit in a hospital all day on a sunny Saturday, that’s what I did. You know how punctual the trains in Japan are? Well, they save up all that time and use it against you at the hospital. It took like six hours before the doctor finally called me in.

“Did you come by yourself today?” he asked.

I looked around. “I believe so,” I said.

“What seems to be the problem?

“I think maybe I have a hernia,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

We sat there in silence for a while. It seemed like somebody should’ve been talking.

“I guess I, uh, should have some sort of operation?” I ventured.

He checked something on what I believe is the last functioning MS-DOS computer. The screen lit up with the brilliance of sixteen different colors. “Okay,” he said. “How’s next Thursday?

“Fine by me, I guess.

“Okay, see you then.”

And that was it. No examination, no Turn your head and cough, just See ya Thursday, Ken. Easier than making plans for lunch.

On the way out, the nurse told me to come on Wednesday for some complicated Japanese medical stuff that amounted to poking and prodding, so on Monday, I went to school and requested three sick days.

“So you’ll be in the hospital Thursday night, and also on Friday?” asked my supervisor.

“That’s right. The unfortunate result of playing with children.

“Well, you can use two sick days,” he said, “but you’ll have to take Wednesday as a vacation day.

“Vacation?” I stammered. “We get ten sick days a year, and in 3 years I’ve never used one.

“But the operation isn’t till Thursday.

“I’m having a medical procedure,” I said, “not going to the beach. I can’t just show up at the hospital Thursday morning.

“Hmm, I’ll need to contact HR,” he said.

And that was it, the seal of death. Contacting HR, like Go ask your Father, consulting scripture, and praying to Santa, is just a way to insulate oneself from delivering bad news. Sure enough, later in the day he came back, along with a guy in a stained gray suit, and we all sat down to discuss what amounted to: Vacation day or nothing. Well Seeroi, at least you know where you stand, I figured, so that’s something. Now get back out to the fields and pick that lettuce.

So on Wednesday, I went to the hospital for my vacation. If Yoshida Sensei was impressed by my writing ability, she would have been floored by my capacity for bluffing through stacks of forms, randomly checking boxes for diseases I did and did not have, and bravely agreeing to donate several organs. See ya later, appendix.

Then I went around to various rooms where they took measurements, blood, sweat, and tears, until I finally reached the anesthesiologist.

“We need to be very precise in the amount of anesthetic we give you,” she said.

“That sounds like a good idea,” I agreed.

“So how much do you weigh?” she asked.

“46 kilograms,” I said with great confidence. “No, wait. 76? No, 74. I think. What’s that in pounds again?

“I’ll put down 74,” she said.

That evening, I didn’t exactly have a real good feeling about the whole thing. What kind of hospital doesn’t use a scale? And the doctor hadn’t even looked at me once. I decide to shave the left side of my groinal region, so at least they wouldn’t operate on the wrong side. Then I weighed myself: 76 kilograms. Must’ve been all those damn potato chips. Well, close enough, I figured. Finally, I took a ballpoint pen and drew a dotted line across the area that needed to be operated on. I’m very helpful like that.

When I got to the hospital the next morning, they sold me a special pair of underwear for 300 yen, put me on a gurney, stuck an IV into my arm, and wheeled me into the operating room. The doctor was sitting there, legs crossed, reading a paperback novel.

“Good morning,” I said in Japanese.

“Oxygen,” he said, in English, and somebody put a mask over my nose and mouth. It was the first and only word of English anybody’d spoken to me at the hospital, and I wondered why he chose that exact moment to remind me that I was different. But then everything went strange, then blurry, then black.

Next week, Back from the Dead.